Clare Kummer had a song which was a huge hit: “Dearie” in 1905, which sold over 1 million copies of sheet music. To put that in context: in 1900, it is estimated that there were about 1 million pianos in the entire US.
It’s been a little while since I last used this lovely site, leaving the delights of Simba the Not the Lion King up as my final statement, which clearly has to change! Lots to discuss, but most recently I’ve written a series of blog posts which started yesterday for Maestra on women composers who were part of Broadway’s early history. The first went up on #Internationalwomensday – and features the work of Cissie Loftus.
As well as showcasing my stalker/detective/historian skills, it represents the first time her compositions have been listed in one place. In time – it means that it can be used to improve her Wikipedia page – and particularly for Nora Bayes, who doesn’t even have one yet!
To start off, I’ll explore the work of three of the most prolific women composers in early 20th century musical theatre: Clare Kummer, Cecilia ‘Cissie’ Loftus, and Nora Bayes. They all worked at the beginning of the 20th century and all took on multiple roles in their professional careers, including: acting, music hall performance, composition, lyric-writing, and producing. The three women attracted extensive press coverage, not least because all three of them disobeyed expected social mores in their personal lives: Bayes had five husbands and Loftus’s divorce made international headlines. Yet their composition practice has largely been forgotten. Retracing their work is one way of changing that.
Maestra Music is an incredible organisation, working to support women composers and music professionals in musical theatre, led by Georgia Stitt. Next week will be Nora Bayes and the week after Clare Kummer, so stay tuned and sorry for leaving off-brand Simba for so long, all by himself.